Liza Griffin, DPIR
Following the very successful DPIR staff and student Away Weekend to Yorkshire in early 2009, the Department ran another residential trip to Wales in December last year. The weekend was designed to promote learning and give students the opportunity to explore current thinking in politics and international relations. Its theme this time, ‘Democratic Futures’, was part of the 20th Anniversary Celebrations for DPIR’s own Centre for the Study of Democracy. The programme included several events and workshops including debates about important issues of the day, roundtable discussions, reading groups and politics simulations.
The weekend was a huge success that helped to foster good staff-student relations in the Department, and build a strong sense of identity amongst our students. As well as being academically successful, the trip was a lot of fun. Feedback from the weekend was almost unanimously enthusiastic. The vast majority felt that the trip provided a valuable learning experience that helped to boost their personal development and chances of getting a job in their chosen field. Most students said that Democratic Futures was a “positive experience” while a few felt it was “inspirational”! One student found that the weekend stimulated his “passion for intellectual challenges” while another thought that it helped her “to enjoy participating in discussions” so that she “would speak up more in future”. Many students enjoyed the role playing activities and simulations because they encouraged them to “put theory into practice” and consolidate their learning from other modules. Aside from all this hard work, there was also time to explore the local area around the field centre which was set in acres of woodland in an ‘area of outstanding natural beauty’ in the Wye Valley. But perhaps most importantly, the students found that the weekend helped them to get to know their course mates and teachers better and make new friends in the Department.